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  Wild Flower — 2  

Sex & Violence
  Vol II : issue 1

  Amrita Pritam
  Mrinal Pande
  Evelyne Accad
  Gagan Gill
  Selina Hossain
  Only in Print

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Amrita Pritam

I laughed, and so did Angoori. She had no doubts about what she had heard and learned, so I did not say anything to her. If she can laugh and be happy with her own values, so be it.

I would look at her laughing face. Her body was dark, her flesh like well kneaded dough. They say a woman is like a ball of dough. But sometimes the dough is loose and difficult to roll into the round shape of a roti. Sometimes the dough is stale and impossible to roll out. But there is a sort of woman whose flesh is taut and well toned. One can roll out not just rotis but even puris. I looked at Angoori’s face, her breasts and her arms. Her flesh was tightly kneaded. I had seen her Parbhati too. He was short and withered. He certainly did not deserve to eat such well-kneaded dough... and I laughed at myself for comparing flesh to dough.

I would ask her about her village. Talking of her parents, her brothers and sisters and the green fields, I asked her one day: “Angoori, what’s marriage like in your village?”
“When the girl is small, some five years old, she worships someone’s feet.”
“How does she worship the feet?”
“Well, she does not do it. Her father goes and does it. He takes a platter full of flowers and some money and puts it before the man.”
“This means the father is worshipping his feet. Where does the girl come in?”
“The father does it on behalf of the girl.”
“But the girl hasn’t even seen the man.”
“Girls don’t see the man.”
“A girl does not see the man she is going to marry?”
“No girl, ever?”
“No.” But after giving it some thought, Angoori added, “The girls who are in love see him.”
“Do girls in your village fall in love?”
“Very few.”
“Isn’t it a sin for a girl to love?”
“It is a sin, a very grave sin,” Angoori said at once.
“Why do they sin?”
“Well... what happens is that when a man feeds something to a girl, she falls in love.”
“What does he feed her?”
“It is a wildflower. He conceals it in a sweet or a paan and makes the girl eat it. Then she likes him — only him, and nothing else in the world.”"
“I know it. I have seen it with my own eyes.”
“What have you seen?”
“I had a friend. She was just a little taller than me.”
“What then? She lost her mind over him. She eloped with him to the city.”
“How do you know that your friend was fed a wildflower?”
“He had put that flower in barfi. What else? She wouldn’t have left her parents otherwise. He used to bring many things for her. He would bring a sari from the city, glass bangles, a bead necklace...”
“But these are gifts. How do you know that he fed her with a wildflower?”
“If he hadn’t fed her, why did she fall in love with him?”
“One can fall in love just like that.”
“No, it can’t be. One cannot love just like that — it hurts the parents.”
“Have you seen that wildflower?”
“No, I have never seen it. It has to be brought from far away. Then it has to be hidden in a sweet or a paan. When I was still a child, my mother had warned me not to take a sweet from any man.”
“You did well by not eating sweets given by any old man. Why did your friend eat it?”

“She will have to pay for her sin.” Angoori said this, but then her love for her friend made her somewhat compassionate. With a sad face she said, “She had simply gone crazy, poor girl. She would not comb her hair. She would wake up in the middle of the night and sing.”

“What did she sing of?”
“I don’t know. Whoever tastes the wildflower sings a lot, and weeps a lot too.”
Since the narrative had travelled from singing to weeping, I did not question her any further.

Soon, very soon, something changed. One day she came up quietly and sat by my side under the neem tree. Earlier, her anklets would announce her arrival from twenty yards away. But today, there was silence. I lifted my head from the book and asked her, “What’s the matter, Angoori?”
“Teach me how to write my name.”
“Do you want to write a letter to someone?”
Angoori did not reply. Her eyes were vacant.
It was mid-day. I left Angoori under the neem tree and came home. When I went out again in the evening, Angoori was still sitting under the tree. She was crouching. The nip in the evening air was sending soft shivers down her body.

I was standing behind her. There was a song on her lips which sounded like a long sob.
“Meri mundri mein lago naginva
Ho bairi kaise kaatoon jobanva”
(“My ring is studded with a stone, Accursed one, what will become of my youth?”)
Angoori heard my footsteps. She turned around, saw me and shut her song in her lips. “You sing very well, Angoori.”

p. 1 p. 2 p.3

  Amrita Pritam is one of the pioneering woman writers of contemporary India. Her poetry in Punjabi won her the Jnanpith and Sahitya Akademi awards, among others. She lives in Delhi and edits Nagmani, a literary magazine in Punjabi